The guy in the picture above, Ajit Pai, has announced that “the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet” with the first step in the process being the dismantling of net neutrality regulations. If you have no clue what net neutrality is, it is quite easy to explain. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide people with...that’s right: the internet. There are laws that state that these ISPs are not legally allowed to purposefully block or slow down access to certain sites along with other laws stating that internet providers cannot purposely thwart a person’s internet access. So, this provides everyone with equal access to all highways of the internet, which doesn’t sound too bad. But, in the very near future, that could no longer be the case.
For now, everything is fair and everyone has equal access, for the most part. ISPs can still charge more for faster internet speeds, but the important thing is that this speed is consistent throughout the internet. Whether you are browsing Facebook or looking at news sites (unless Facebook is unfortunately also your news site) ISPs cannot change your speed based on what you are browsing.
Now just take a moment and think about what will happen if that changes.
The major problem is that ISPs will simply have more control. And if they have more control, they will use it to make more money. For example, Comcast owns Xfinity and NBC. Their competitors are Verizon and CBS. As of right now, it would be illegal for them to make connections to Verizon or CBS slower just because they are competitors with Comcast. But if certain FCC regulations were pulled, then they absolutely could slow down their customer’s connection to their competitor’s websites to discourage people from going to them. Or even worse, they could put up a paywall so that people would have to pay extra just to visit these sites.
Oh no...can you imagine something like this? Especially in an environment where two major corporations dominate the ISP market? It is basically guaranteed that everyone’s rates will go up as the regular prices will have slower speeds and everyone who actually wants to view a webpage rather than a loading screen will have to pay a “premium price”. Not only that, but what if certain ISPs support certain political agendas or a candidate? They could slow down access to sites that support the candidate they don’t or possibly even censor it altogether. I don’t want to pull out the slippery slope fallacy here...but it definitely does not seem to unreasonable of a possibility.
The potential price issue may not even be the worst consequence of all of this. As the New York Times says, the internet is a fantastic place for people to express their ideas and promote their brand. Anyone can find someone’s web page or random site and it could grow big incredibly quickly. But if net neutrality is repealed, this may not be the case. ISPs may make websites pay some kind of monthly fee to ensure that their website can be found by all audiences. Obviously, if you are a small business or just one person, this fee could completely turn you off from even having a web page in the first place, and thus, only well known companies or wealthy people will be able to afford to have web pages.
Essentially, the internet is a place where ideas can freely be shared by everyone, no matter how controversial or meaningless. That is special. It is one of the only places left where people can freely express their ideas. With the collapse of net neutrality, this won’t likely be the case anymore. ISPs and other corporations can commercialize even greater than they already are and the average joe most likely will be paying more money to get the same service.
But I think we are all forgetting what is truly important here. Repealing net neutrality will help the failing ISPs like Comcast, who only rake in about $80 billion per year with net neutrality regulations. We are helping these businesses stay afloat and feed their families. That is what really matters.